Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Cat Who Danced with a Roadrunner

Today is the day for finding files.  This morning I found a file while looking for another, this afternoon I found another.

"The cat who danced with a roadrunner" comes from Diane Quinn, who tells us one of the adventures she had with her cat Zorro.  To read more of Diane, please visit

Our Ragdoll breed cat, Zorro, is just the sweetest, laid-back guy you would ever want to snuggle with on your bed or have sandpaper lick your hand.  Typical of the breed, he loves his people family more than his Fancy Feast.  (Well, okay, at least I believe we come in a very close second.)  So much has been written about this breed, that when we adopted him at one-year of age, he seemed to lack many typical cat traits.  How many cats do you know that come and greet you at the door?  Or, how many cats do you know that will follow you around the house—all the time?  Perhaps I named him wrong.  Instead of Zorro, he should have been called, “The Shadow.”

About a year after we adopted him, we moved to a location on a hill above a desert golf course with a patio looking over the 9th tee.  We knew that an assortment of wildlife passed by every day, but we were not prepared for the antics of the roadrunner we named, Rocky, who visited us daily. 

We had only been moved in for about a week, when I met Rocky for the first time one morning as he pecked a greeting on one of our French doors.  I was fascinated with this primitive, even scary looking, huge bird fearlessly making himself known.   When I went over to the door to get a closer look at him, he gave me the once-over, just as I was doing the same to him.  When he didn’t run away, I called:  “Zorro, come!” hoping he would come join me at the door.  It must have been the tone of my voice, perhaps tinged with excitement that brought Zorro zooming to a stop beside me.  By this time, Rocky had lost interest in me, and he had jumped on top of our patio table, and was scanning the horizon for movement that might translate into his breakfast.   Zorro could see him, but he had not yet seen Zorro.

My big guy was mesmerized.  His smoky gray, elegant tail was waving furiously as he paced in front of the French doors.  Eventually, Rocky went on to the serious business of lizard hunting. I felt disappointed because I really wanted to see what Rocky’s reaction would be to Zorro.  As luck would have it, I did not have to wait long to find out.

The next morning, there Rocky was again, pecking at the French doors, intense dark eyes trying to see in through the glass.  Again I called, “Zorro, come!”   This time Zorro ran so fast, he overran and actually slid into the glass door.  Suddenly, they were face-to-face.  It was a stare-down of epic proportions.  I could see the curiosity mixing with the caution in their eyes.   Being a smart guy, and unsure of the situation, Zorro sat down to take a load off his paws.  He gave me a look that said, “What IS that thing?”  Even though Zorro was a house cat, he still had the same instincts that every cat before him for a thousand years understood.  He was just not sure what to do about them.

Rocky cocked his head one more time and jumped on top of the table that had become his command post.  A ground bird, I learned that roadrunners often seek height in order to see movement at a distance.  When nothing appeared to be moving, off he went.

This same pattern went on for a week.  Zorro was not quite sure how to react; and Rocky tried to look menacing enough so we wouldn’t venture outside and chase him away.   Then one day something changed.

On this day when Rocky appeared, and when I called, “Zorro, come!” he not only ran over to the window, but threw himself against the glass and began to pound on the glass with his paws.  Rocky reciprocated by jumping back at Zorro on the other side of the glass.  I was watching a boxing match!  They had their own rhythm going and, if music had been playing, it would have been, “Flight of the Bumble Bees,” so comical was their dance.

Eventually, Rocky tired of banging against the glass, and got back to business on top of our table.  He sat there for the longest time that day.  I wondered if he was posturing as any conquering predator would after battle.   Self-satisfied, he proudly perched on his table surveying his territory.

What did my handsome guy, Zorro, do?  He came over to mommy, of course, for lots of praise and head rubs.  He had little idea what had just transpired, but he did know that he had protected his turf too.

Thank goodness, I thought to myself, knowing they would never meet without glass between them.  Because the truth was that Rocky was larger than Zorro, and a very aggressive bird that would not only have scared Zorro to death, but was capable of seriously hurting him with those sharp claws and deadly beak.  These primitive birds survive in the harshest climate in North America, and for a good reason.

But, Zorro didn’t have to know the truth.  He just needed to know that mommy was proud of him, as she reached in the cupboard for his favorite treat.

 “Good boy,” I murmured, stroking his head in the way he preferred.  “Good boy.”

Trissy's Story

While looking for a file (see latest entry in "Undert the Toronto Sun" blog for more details) I came across another file.
I have no idea who sent this story to me (must have been a while ago), but if you recognize this as your story I will edit this entry and mention your name. 

One evening, I was working after hours receptionist duty, at a university veterinary teaching hospital. An owner came to pick up her ten-month-old Maine Coon cat. I did not know anything about the breed, and I could not understand the reason she was so proud of him. OK, he was a Premier Grand Champion show cat. He was nice looking, but he seemed to be just a cat. Then he looked out of his carrier, and I fell into the most beautiful green eyes I had ever seen.
Several years later, I was in the check out line at a local garden store. I mentioned I had recently adopted a parakeet. The clerk asked if I wanted to adopt a cat, too. I checked with my roommates, and since we already had two cats and a dog, the response was, “Sure! What’s one more?” So I arranged to meet the clerk, and the cat, the next day.
I arrived at the garden store, the clerk opened the carrier, and out strolled a big, long-haired cat, with a very long, fluffy tail. He looked around, and was very nonchalant, while rubbing and purring. I stroked his head, but that was all. I had been around many cats in my life, but not one that big, and I found him intimidating.
We put him in my carrier, and I headed over to the veterinary teaching hospital to have him checked out. Again, he strolled out of the carrier, looked around and started purring. People began picking him up, and he loved it. It was while I was there, I recognized the same big, beautiful green eyes I had fallen in love with, several years before!
He was the same cat! His former owner, for whatever reason I never did learn, had given him to the garden store clerk. He had some type of problem at her house, and she had been keeping him in a barn. He was thin, had some mats, ear mites and smelled like a barn.
We went home and I put him in my bedroom. He was not in the least bit shy, and soon put me at ease. I was not working the next three days, so I closed the bedroom door and we were able to spend the time alone, getting to know each other and bonding. He decided his place was on my pillow. This big sweetheart, with the loud purr and gentle ways, seemed to be happy with his new living situation. He groomed himself, with my help, until we had the mats and barn smell eliminated.
I had medicine to treat his ear mites. It was in a small squeeze bottle and easy to use. He, however, did not like it. One morning, he was sleeping beside me on the pillow, and I thought if I could sneak the medicine into his ear while he was asleep, it would be much easier. I had the bottle poised, squeezed it once and realized I needed to give it another squeeze to get the right dosage. I made the mistake of relaxing my thumb and finger, and the bottle made a loud, moist, sucking sound, right in his ear! He jumped straight in the air, came down and looked at me as if I had shot him. Much to my dismay, he never slept on my pillow again.
Now, Trissy was a big, tall, aristocratic looking cat. The name he came with, Johnny, did not seem to fit him at all. I found my book of names and began searching for something I deemed more suitable. I came across Tristan. It seemed to fit. My book said it meant young prince, plus I had always liked Tristan in the James Herriot books. However, he soon became known as Trissy.
I was curious about the Maine Coon breed and wanted to learn more. I looked up Maine Coon cat breeders at work, took the list home, and began calling. The first breeder I spoke with, became very interested when I told her where I lived and that the cat was called Johnny, when I first brought him home. She asked for his description, then told me she wanted to make a phone call and get back to me.
About a half hour later, she called. She was the breeder of this cat! She had sold him to a show home, as a kitten, and he was not to have been sold or given away. If his new owner could not keep him, he was to have gone back to her, the breeder. She was not happy. My first thought was, do I have to give him up? But, no, thank goodness, I could keep him.
Due to this phone call, I was the recipient of his registration papers and the name of the veterinarian with his medical records. I was able to look up the record of his exam at the veterinary school, and learned of his family history of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. His grandfather had died of this disease, at age eleven.
Luckily, I had an “in” to get an appointment with the cardiologist, without waiting the normal several months. She checked him out with blood work, radio-graphs, ECG, and cardiac ultrasound. He had only mild thickening of the wall of his left ventricle. She suggested I have him checked every six months, until we knew if this was progressing.
Trissy loved going to work with me, for his check ups. He would ride in the passenger side seat of the pick-up truck like a little dog, his head poked up through the top flap of his soft sided carrier. When we arrived, he could hardly wait to get out and start socializing. I made him wear a little collar, with a small snap and a long pale blue ribbon, so I could catch and retrieve him, if he became frightened.
He, however, seemed to be afraid of nothing. He would lounge on the desk, standing up to greet clients, as they arrived. At times he would curled up on one of the desk chairs, and sleep peacefully. If I happened to be across the room, Trissy would sometimes look over at me with a great big old kitty grin on his face, as if to say, “Look how everyone is petting me!” And everyone did pay attention to and love him, including the clients. The hospital administrator made the joking comment one day, it was fine that Trissy worked with me, as long as he did not have to pay him, too.
One evening at home, I noticed Trissy having difficulty urinating. He would try to go often, but would be unsuccessful. I called the intensive care unit at the veterinary teaching hospital, and spoke with one of the emergency students. We were soon on our way, to have him examined by the resident on call. She diagnosed a urinary blockage, and admitted him to ICU. He needed a urinary catheter.
Since the resident was a friend of mine, I was allowed to stay and be with them during his catheterization. I had not previously realized how difficult it was to place a urinary catheter in a male, or neutered male cat. They struggled for the longest time, getting the catheter started, but then running into the crystals causing the urinary blockage. Thank goodness, Trissy was under sedation and completely out. But being his mom, I was concerned. . . no. . . I was just plain scared, for my boy.
The resident, even though she was now an ophthalmology resident, had previously worked in an emergency clinic. It was spring, so the student was nearly ready to graduate and begin working. Trissy was in good hands, I had no doubt of that. However, I felt such a sense of relief when the catheter was finally in place, and he was placed in a cage to rest, I nearly cried.
I was able to have long visits, during Trissy’s five day stay in ICU. I was allowed to sit by his cage, with the door open. There, I would rest an arm beside him, and he would lean his head on me, while draping one of his legs over my hand. At other times, he would be on one of the exam tables, so I could cradle him in my arms, and we could touch heads. We would spend several hours a night, being close, comforting each other and cuddling.
The ICU students said he was very quiet, until I came through the door. Then they would hear him start talking. Once they told me they were concerned, because at times he would lie in his cage with his lips slightly parted, as if he might be mouth breathing. I reassured them it was a normal behavior for him, and he was smiling at them, as he often smiled at me.
While in ICU, being rather spoiled, Trissy would only eat if he could lick the soft food from my finger. I also, had to dip my finger in his water, so he could lick the drops. I suppose it was the mom taste, or perhaps the closeness. Even after I brought his sport water bottle from home, he would only drink if I was present. I would hold the bottle and he would lick drops.
At home, if he drank from a bowl, he had to dig beside it, before drinking. Then he would lean way across, no matter what size the bowl. I am sure the water on the far side, was much better. At other times, he would drink by licking water drops from one of his big furry front paws. Many times, I found him with his “hand” in my water glass, helping himself to a drink.
Several months after he came home, I became ill. We had a very small bathroom, and the corner of the sink was so close to the stool, I had to almost turn sideways to get through. One evening, while I was on the stool, vomiting, I felt this big furry paw on my forehead. Trissy was on the corner of the sink with a very concerned look on his face. He was reaching over, touching my forehead, as if he were trying to hold my hair out of the way. It was his turn to care for and comfort me.
This gentle, loving boy became, not only my cat and companion, he became my best friend and life partner. He became the light of my life, and I finally understood the reason his owner, when he was a kitten, was so proud of him!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to get a treat

It’s a good thing we don’t live in Buckingham Palace or the White House, because having five cats to keep track of would be a nightmare for mom.
Take today for instance …

Today was the day the smoke and fire alarm would be tested in the condo building where we live.  Sure enough, around 2:00 p.m. there was a knock on the door and the superintendent announced that someone would be coming to the unit in a few minutes.

The knock on the door was enough to have Mickey, Charlotte and Gabriel running for cover.  Not Charlie, he’s relaxed about anything and everything and not me, (Chanel), because I happen to be under Dieter’s bed already.

I don’t know how the smoke and fire alarm was tested, but everything seemed to be in order and shortly afterward the front door closed.  That was when mom started her headcount.

She found Mickey, Gabriel, Charlie and me, but where was Charlotte?

She looked in all the usual places: under her bed, behind the cabinet, behind the love seat, but apparently she found nothing because I heard her stomping around the place.  She had another look under the bed, checked the linen closet, even opened some kitchen cabinet doors (heaven knows why she did that), but still Charlotte was not to be found.

So she switched to plan B.  “Charlotte, where are you?” she called.  “Charlotte!  Charlotte!” … no answer.

Okay then, over to plan C.  Mom got the treats out of the kitchen cabinet and rattled with the packet.  It’s a plan that never fails.  Within seconds Charlotte had materialized, along with the rest of the pack.  Yes, me included.  We just can’t resist a few treats.

So all was well that ended well.  The smoke and fire alarm worked and thanks to Charlotte we all got a few treats.  Is she a clever kitty or what?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Not the brightest bulb in the box

If you have cats, you know what wonderful companions they are.  Some cats are among other things, resourceful (they can hunt of they have to); funny (have you seen the amount of cat videos on YouTube?); and smart (just try taking out four treats and only giving three). 

And then, then there’s Gabriel.

Ever since he arrived here as a kitten, I knew there was something odd about him.  Oh he’s cute alright, but he’s definitely not the brightest bulb in the box.  At first everybody excused his lack of smarts due to the fact that he was a baby, but now he’s just over three years old and … well, not much has changed.

I saw him do something yesterday that made me shake my head in wonder.  He lay stretched out in the loveseat having a wash.  It started out alright, he groomed his chest, he groomed his belly and paws and then … then he started washing his face, and that’s where it all went wrong. 

He licked his left paw until sufficiently wet and then groomed his face with his right paw.  He did this again and again.  Then he licked his right paw and groomed his face with his left.  It was just the strangest and funniest thing I’ve ever seen.
He of course didn’t have a clue.  He just kept on licking one paw and wiping his face with the other.  

But it didn’t end there.

Later that day mom and Dieter played a game of ping pong with us.  They would throw a ping pong ball and the cats would chase after it.  By the cats I mean, Mickey, Charlotte and Charlie.  They went in pursuit, I just watched.

Gabriel was there too, but he didn’t get the game.  He would see the ball go by, but he didn’t chase it.  Not even when it hit him in head.  That’s right, the ball bounced and bounced and landed right smack between his ears.  And what did Gabriel do? … nothing.  He looked at the ball, shook himself and walked away.  

Being mentored by Mickey sure hasn't done Gabriel any good.  Maybe I should take over.  Neih, every house needs a comedy act.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Another one bites the dust

It’s been said that shards bring good luck.  In that case, there must be a lot of good luck going around in this house.  The plates, bowls, cups, ornaments and even lampshades that have met their end due to human or feline clumsiness are too many to mention.  Let’s just say that this house has quite a few partial dinner and coffee services.

Tonight it was a soup plate.  One moment it was used to serve me my dinner, the next it was on the floor in several pieces. 

Mickey was the culprit and shortly after breaking the plate, he set a new world record in the 50 meter sprint.  Like a bow from an arrow, in a blur of black fur, he shot out of the kitchen and under mom’s bed.  When I went to have a look, I found him crouched in a corner, eyes as big as saucers.

I don’t know why he was so scared, it’s not like he was going to be yelled at or punished in any way.  So he broke a plate, so what?  It’s not the first one he broke and my guess is, it won’t be his last.

Of course, like I said, it’s not always us cats who break things.  Mom and Dieter have broken their share of items too.  Mom’s most memorable breaking accident happened a few years ago and involved a navy blue candle in a glass bowl.

The candle had been burning all evening and when bed time came around, mom blew out the candle and picked up the bowl to put it away.  Well, she wanted to put it away, but the bowl never made it that far.  Shortly after mom picked up the bowl, the hot glass burned her fingers and she let go of the bloody thing.

You cannot imagine the mess ... glass and blue wax everywhere!  On the wall unit, on the floor, on the carpet ... words cannot describe it.  Dieter actually took a picture of it at the time. 

Was the mess cleaned up?  Of course it was.  Once the wax had grown hard, it was easy to lift it off the hard surfaces and most of the carpet.  To clean up the remainder, the wax was covered with brown paper and ironed with a warm iron.  The wax was absorbed in the brown paper and so not a trace of wax was left.

I’m throwing this in just in case one of you ever spills wax. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

In or out

There are people who have difficulties making up their minds.  Animals are no different, some also have a little trouble deciding what they want.  Mickey is a fine example of this. 

Before his adoption, Mickey’s previous owner (Mom’s father), had stated that Mick was a cat who needed a doorman.  Yeah, no kidding, I’ve seen Mickey at work and he is indeed a handful. 

For starters, he cannot stand closed doors.  If Mom or Dieter go into a room and close the door, he will position himself in front of it and start complaining.  The result of his whining is usually that the door is opened. 
It doesn’t take long though before he whines again.  Now that he’s been let in, he wants to go out.  After he’s been let out, he sits by the door and cries again for entrance or scratched the door.  Again it opens, Mickey slips in and a short while later it opens again and Mickey slips out.

The same applies for when Mickey wants to go on the balcony.  When he’s inside, he wants to go outside; when he’s outside he wants to come inside.  In, out, in, out ... can’t he make up his mind?

Don’t be alarmed when I say that Mickey goes out on the balcony.  There is no danger, as we cats have a kitty run on the balcony.  See picture above.

This talk about going inside and outside actually reminds me of someone ... Debbie.  She didn’t have a problem as such as to whether she wanted to be inside or out, as she had a problem with a door itself.

Debbie was a weasel and tiny as she was, she had a bit of an attitude.  I mean, if someone opened a door for her so she could slip through, she remained in place.  The door would be opened wider, but still Debbie didn’t move.  She would merely look up and wait.  Only after the door was opened wider still, enough to give access for a fully grown German Sheppard, would madam make her entrance.  Didn’t I say she had an attitude?

Debbie passed away a number of years ago, but we remember her very fondly.  She was good fun to play with.  Whenever she was awake, which wasn’t often as weasels sleep on average 18 hours a day, we would chase her around.  Don’t feel sorry for her.  Most of the time she would turn the table on us and we would have to run not to have our tails nipped by her sharp teeth.

I remember one time when Charlotte was running after Debbie, chasing her into one of the bedrooms.  Moments later Charlotte came sprinting back, with Debbie in hot pursuit.  In one fluid motion Charlotte jumped onto the sofa and from there onto the dining room table.  Debbie thought she could do the same.  She launched herself onto the sofa and took a leap of faith to the dining room table.  Unfortunately, Debbie’s ambition was writing checks her little legs couldn’t cash and she plummeted to the floor.
She was okay.  She gave herself a little shake and walked away, but she never attempted such a jump again.

Such a character she was.  Those who knew her, still miss her.

For those interested in the kitty run, please visit